Handbell Society of Australasia
The Lynch Family pt 2
The going gets tough for the Lynch family
Written by Gwyn Gillard in 2002
It’s not easy getting started in the entertainment business as the Lynch family soon discovered. After their debut series of 3 concerts (as professionals) in Geelong on 14th, 15th and 16th September 1868 they went straight up to Ballarat for 3 performances on 23rd, 24th and 25th September in the Mechanics’ Hall. By a cruel stroke of luck the Lancashire Ringers happened to be in town at the same time! They were performing not on their own but as part of a show put on at the Bijou Theatre. This show had been running since the 7th September and included acts such as the wondrous Mr Bartine (who performed difficult feats such as walking on the ceiling!), dramatic pieces such as “Who Killed Cock Robin” and “Barney the Baron” which aroused the “rapturous delight of the audience” (to quote the Ballarat Star) and an Irish comedian, Mr Peter Mansergh. As for the Lancashire Ringers’ contribution, the Ballarat Star reported that they “reappeared and were honoured with the heartiest encores possible.” How could the poor Australian Bellringers, who were complete unknowns, compete with this? The review of the first performance in the Ballarat Star of 24th September was very complimentary:
The Lynch family of Australian bellringers gave their first performance last night in the hall of the Mechanics’ Institute, but owing to the attractions elsewhere, the audience probably was not so large as it otherwise would have been. The performers consist of Mr Lynch and his five sons, whose ages vary from about 11 to 20 years. The lads are a smart, healthy, intelligent sample of Australian youth, and it is really a pleasant sight to see them at their musical work, the little fellows, as well as their elders, giving themselves heartily to the business. The platform looked brilliant in its array of bright bells and colored drapery. On a draped table were spread a host of bells like the Lancashire Company’s display. Then there was a stand on which lines of bells were hung, and there was also a fixed series of clock bells. The programme was very liberal, some thirty separate melodies being given, besides a series of chimes and changes. Then the entertainment is spiced with another kind of variety which is also a novelty. This clever family group gives us not only bellringing, but a mixture of bells and wind percussion instruments, one of them pegging away industriously upon the clock bells while another plays a concertina, another a picolo, another a tambourine, and all at once. This is a somewhat odd medly, but it sounds well enough. The bellringing by this family does not possess the finish of the Lancashire ringers, but it is pleasant to hear, and the long list of popular melodies performed makes the entertainment very enjoyable. Then, it is Australian, and in it we must find something “racy of the soil” while we listen to the chimes “Bonnie Dundee”, “Ship on Fire”, “Garry Owen”, “Girl I left behind me”, “Nora Creina”, “Home, sweet home”, “Nelly Gray”, “Buy a broom” and a score of other airs, and a notable novelty called “imitation of the bagpipes”. The entertainment is really worth hearing and seeing, and we hope to see a good hall tonight.
Despite this exhortation to the general public the next evening’s attendance was still low and the Ballarat Star reported:
The Australian bellringers gave their second entertainment last night at the Mechanics’ Institute, but the attendance was not much better than on the first night. No doubt bellringing has lost its charm of novelty, and this clever company also has to compete with the more practised Lancashire company at the other end of town. Still the Lynch family should draw better houses, if only for the sake of seeing and hearing the family of Australians and especially the little boys who take so prominent and skillful a part in the pleasantly various entertainment. The performances will be repeated this evening.
(The Lancashire bellringers had given 4 concerts of their own in Ballarat earlier in the year from the 19th to the 23rd of March, so the Ballarat public had already enjoyed a feast of handbell ringing.)
The Star’s report of the final performance contained more gloomy news:
The Australian bellringers gave their last entertainment on Friday night, to a house as meagre as the previous ones. We regret the fact, but it is due no doubt to the importune time chosen for the company’s visit to Ballarat. With the Lancashire Company here, and with a local amateur company occasionally performing, the odds just now were against the Lynch family. We trust they will visit us again under more auspicious conditions and meet with an amount of patronage more commensurate with their skill and the otherwise exceptional attractiveness of the entertainment in their hands.
Fortunately the Lynch family was not deterred by this inauspicious beginning and went on to greater things.